William C Gilman.

The celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: online

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Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 3 of 19)
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ness every legible word and letter. He died in 1908. It is
to be hoped that by the generosity of some public spirited
descendant of a Founder of Norwich, Mr. Porter's invalu-
able manuscript, which is now in the hands of his sister,
Mrs. Jane Porter Rudd, may find a publisher.

The Daughters also caused suitable inscriptions to be
placed near the former home of Governor Samuel Hunting-
ton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and also
near the homes of General Jabez Huntington and his
distinguished sons, Jedidiah, Andrew, Joshua, Ebenezer,
and Zachariah, of Revolutionary fame. The memorial
fountain placed by the Daughters in the little plain on
Broadway will be described later in this volume.

The Miantonomo Monument.

The monumental stone that for sixty-three years had
marked the spot where Uncas, chief of the Mohegans,
captured Miantonomo, chief of the Narragansetts, was
moved in 1904 to a little cliff one hundred and fifty feet
from its original position. The change came about through
the purchase for building purposes of the land on which the


monument stood. According to the lay-out the stone was
on the dividing line between two lots. By prompt action
Miss Maria Perit Oilman and Mrs. Louisa Oilman Lane
purchased the two lots and the stone, and also the plot,
120 by 160 feet, to which the monument was afterwards
removed. They then appealed to the Society of Colonial
Wars, and Major Bela Peck Learned and Jonathan Trum-
bull were appointed a committee and given funds for the
purchase of the land and the removal and preservation of
the stone, which thus became the property of an incor-
porated society. The original inscription was "Mianto-
nomo. 1643." To this was added, "Erected in 1841. Placed
here by Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars 1904."

The history of the monument is worthy of record here.
In 1841, a year before the Uncas monument on Sachem
street was completed, "the late William C. Gilman and his
associates," with a view to the erection of a simple memorial
of Miantonomo, invited the venerable Judge Nathaniel
Shipman to go with them to Sachem's Plain and point out
the spot where he remembered to have seen in his early
boyhood the great pile of rough stones heaped up in
remembrance of their great chieftain by the Narragansetts
in their wanderings through the country. As they were
entering the field one of the party said to the judge, "please
try to remember a shady place, if you can !" The old gentle-
man surveyed the ground, and, advancing straightway to
the shadow of a convenient tree, planted in the earth
his silver headed cane, "the ancient cane" of Lieutenant
Thomas Leffingwell, friend of Uncas, and said, "as nearly
as I can remember, it was not ten feet from this spot !"

The company of men and women, boys and girls, and
members of the "Cold Water Army," who assembled there
on the following Fourth of July, when the monument was
first exhibited to the public, duly appreciated the "shady
place," while addresses were made, and a bucket of cold
water from the Sachem's spring was poured over the
granite block by Thomas Sterry Hunt, then a Norwich
school boy, afterward the eminent geologist of the United


States and Canada. Some time later, the Rev. Thomas
Leffingwell Shipman asked his father how he could venture
to say after the lapse of so many years that that was the
exact spot where in his childhood he had seen the heap
of stones. "Thomas," said the judge gravely, "it was no
time for me to balk !"

It would have been unfortunate indeed had one of the
few memorials of the almost extinct tribes been lost to
sight and remembrance in the back garden of a private
dwelling or hewn into foundation stones for a new build-
ing. Miantonomo is fitly commemorated on Sachem's Plain,
Uncas, on Sachem street. It may be hoped that, in happier
hunting grounds than Narragansett or Mohegan they smoke
the pipe of peace, that ancient animosities are forgotten,
and the hatchet is buried forever.

The Mason Monument.

Among the interesting events of the celebration of 1859
was the laying of the corner stone of a monument in
memory of Major John Mason and the Founders of Nor-
wich, in Yantic cemetery, by the Free and Accepted Order
of Masons. At the conclusion of the impressive ceremonies
the company returned to the tent on Chelsea Parade, where
the Hon. John A. Rockwell delivered an oration on the
Life and Times of Mason. The situation of the stone was
almost from the first regarded as unfortunate, for, as
intimated in Mr. Rockwell's address, the expectation had
been that a suitable monument would mark the spot in
the most ancient burying ground, on the road from Nor-
wich Town to Bean Hill, where Major Mason was buried.
The stone seems to have been forgotten; at any rate, it
disappeared from Yantic cemetery. Soon after the celebra-
tion it was voted that a balance of about three hundred and
thirty-seven dollars ($337.91) remaining with the executive
committee should be applied to a fund for the monument.
No further action was taken, however, for twelve years,
when, in 1871, John T. Wait, James M. Meech, and John
L. Devotion were appointed to superintend the erection of


such a monument as they might deem appropriate. Under
their direction a granite monument was erected at a cost
of six hundred and fifty dollars, on the site of the old Post
and Gager burying ground, on land of Lyman W. Lee
which was purchased for the purpose, and the committee
and their associates were incorporated by the state legis-
lature in 1871 as the "Mason Monument Association," with
perpetual succession, and authority to take charge of
certain funds remaining on hand, and to watch over and
preserve the monument. The names of the original cor-
porators are recorded on page 709 of Miss Caulkins's
history, edition of 1874.

At a meeting of the Association, May 27, 1909, Amos A.
Browning, Barzillai P. Bishop, Guy B. Dolbeare, William
C. Gilman, Frederic P. Gulliver, Bela P. Learned, A. W.
Dickey, Frederick L. Osgood, John F. Parker, Gilbert S.
Raymond, Beriah G. Smith, Newton P. Smith, Edwin A.
Tracy, Jonathan Trumbull, Henry G. Peck, Charles R.
Gallup, Costello Lippitt, Charles S. Holbrook, John P.
Huntington, and John C. Morgan were elected members of
the corporation ; and, at a subsequent meeting, a president
and six directors were elected and authorized to have the
monument and ground put in order before the quarter
millennial celebration. This was done accordingly.

The Thomas Leffingwell Monument.

The Connecticut Society of the Colonial Dames of
America, in November, 1898, erected a cairn, a cone-shaped
pile of stones suggesting by its form an Indian wigwam,
on the west side of the Thames river, four miles below
Norwich, to mark the spot known as the "chair of Uncas,"
to which the intrepid Lieutenant Thomas Leffingwell
brought in a boat, by night, from Saybrook, supplies of
beef, corn, and peas for the relief of the Mohegans when
they were besieged in their Fort Shantok, and were reduced
almost to starvation by the hostile Narragansetts. Major
Bela P. Learned, in a short address, presented Arthur
Leffingwell Shipman, a descendant of Lieutenant Thomas


Leffingwell, as the orator of the day. When the flag, cover-
ing the cairn, was removed by Miss Mary Learned, also
a direct descendant of Leffingwell, assisted by Lloyd Gray,
a lad of six years, said to be the youngest descendant of
Uncas, the following inscription was disclosed : "Here was
the Fort of Uncas, Chief of the Mohegans and Friend of
the English. Here, in 1645, when besieged by the Nar-
ragansetts, he was relieved by the bravery of Lieut. Thomas

Parks in Norwich.

"The proprietors of the common land in the township
of Norwich" in 1729 did wisely "agree, vote and grant by
a large majority that the meeting house plain shall be and
remain to be and lye common for publick use for the whole
town forever without alteration." Similar action was taken
at the same time in regard to the plain at Bean Hill, and
from that day to this no encroachments of any kind have
been tolerated at either place.

Chelsea Parade.

Appreciating the value of such open spaces, three
public-spirited citizens, Thomas Fanning, Joseph Perkins,
and Joshua Lathrop, in 1797 gave to all the inhabitants of
the town the land now known as the Chelsea Parade, "for
the use and purpose of a public parade or open walk, to be
unencumbered with any kind of building or nuisance what-
ever." To commemorate this gift, many years later, Gen.
Alfred Perkins Rockwell and Dr. John A. Rockwell, grand-
sons of Joseph Perkins, placed a granite boulder near the
southeast corner of the parade, with a bronze plate bearing
an inscription in the following words :

"Chelsea Parade given to the Town of Norwich
for the use and purpose of a public parade or open walk
by Thomas Fanning Joseph Perkins Joshua Lathrop
April 5, 1797 Norwich Book of Deeds, No. 28 Pages
367, 368 and 369."


The bronze tablet was taken away in 1904, probably
by a passing stranger no Norwich man would have been
guilty of such vandalism but Dr. Rockwell generously
caused the original inscription to be carved on the boulder,
which, it may be hoped, will be a "monument more lasting
than bronze."

The Little Plain and Franklin Street Park.

Fourteen years later, in 1811, Hezekiah Perkins and
Jabez Huntington, following the example of the donors of
the Chelsea Parade, gave to the city, on condition that it
should be used only as a park, the smaller tract at the
junction of Broadway and Union street, which had been
the property of Col. Christopher Leffingwell and is now
known as the Little Plain.

In June, 1859, at the suggestion of Levi Hart Goddard,
a member of the Court of Common Council, the city pur-
chased for $700, from Avery Smith and Horace Walker,
the triangular piece of land at the intersection of Franklin
street with the Old Providence Road, and agreed with the
grantors to lay out the same as a public park, to be held
forever as such, and to fence it and plant trees, and to
keep it ever after in proper repair. This has now become
a valuable resting place for the weary, and a play ground
for young children. At about the same time the pro-
prietors of Laurel Hill also reserved a shady green breath-
ing place in that attractive part of the city.

Meeting House Rocks.

In 1906 Willis D. Perkins presented to the Norwich
Rural Association an acre of land on the top of the Meeting
House Rocks, thus securing that picturesque, historic spot
for all time from danger of destruction. Subsequently the
First Congregational Church, enabled by two members of
the Rural Association, removed some unsightly shops
clustered at the foot of the rocks, and an old building owned
by Miss Carolyn A. Sterry was also removed by her


generosity. The precipitous front of the rocks thus opened
to view from base to summit, became one of the most
interesting and conspicuous landmarks in the town.

Lowthorpe Meadows.

In 1907 Emily Serena Oilman and Louisa Oilman Lane,
"in consideration of their love and good-will to the
inhabitants of Norwich, and in memory of their sister
Maria Perit Oilman and of their Lathrop ancestry," con-
veyed to trustees about twelve acres of land on Washington
street, opposite the Coit Elms, to be kept as a free open
space for the public good, to be unencumbered by dwelling
houses, barns, or any nuisance whatever, "as a pleasant
place of recreation for the people of Norwich forever," and
to be known as the Lowthorpe Meadows. All the Lathrops
of Norwich are descendants of the Rev. John Lothrop of
Lowthorpe, England; hence, the significance of the name,
Lowthorpe Meadows.

The value of all these different "pleasant places" for
the purposes designated this chain of little parks extend-
ing from Bean Hill to Laurel Hill, each unique in its way
and of increasing usefulness cannot be estimated by their
present worth, but it will inevitably be enhanced with each
succeeding year.

Mohegan Park.

The park system of Norwich was crowned in June,
1906, by the acquisition of about two hundred acres of
natural woodland in the center of the city, the free gift of
the owners of the property, whose names are here recorded
as among the great benefactors of the city: Dr. John A.
Rockwell, the family of the Rev. Leonard W. Bacon, Mrs.
Henry L. Reynolds, Gen. Edward Harland, J. Hunt Smith,
Charles Bard, the Misses Edith M. and Fannie R. Bliss, Mrs.
Henry R. Bond. At the same time the city made an appro-
priation of $7,500 for the construction of two approaches,
and for the purchase of Spaulding's pond within the park.


The natural lay of the land, the varied surface, the rocky
cliffs, the well grown forest trees, and the broad lake have
enabled the commissioners, by strict economy and good
taste, to utilize the small annual appropriation hitherto
made by the city to the greatest possible advantage for
the needs and pleasures of all classes in the community.

It was proposed that the park should bear the name
of Dr. Rockwell, but he declined the honor, and at his
suggestion the appropriate name Mohegan Park was
adopted. The commissioners in 1909 were Joseph T.
Fanning, William A. Norton, the Rev. Neilson Poe Carey,
Henry F. Parker, Henry A. Tirrell, and Dr. P. H. Harriman.
They serve without compensation, and the majority of them
have been in office from the beginning.

Fortunate, indeed, above all others, is the city of Nor-
wich in the possession of a truly rural woodland park within
its limits, of such extent and so easily accessible from every
side "common pleasures, where all the people and their
heirs forever, may walk abroad and recreate themselves."

Industries of Norwich.

The statistics of the Norwich Board of Trade show
that in 1909 the amount of capital invested in manufactures
and the jobbing trades was approximately twenty-eight
million dollars, and that there were about one hundred
and fifty different manufacturing industries. It is mani-
festly impossible therefore in the limits of these introduc-
tory pages to allude to even one tenth of them, but it may
be noted that the manufacture of cotton, begun at an early
period has been continued and extended by the Falls and
Shetucket companies, and the Totokett company at Occum,
and still more by the great Ponemah mill, managed by
John Eccles as agent and superintendent. It is said to be
one of the largest, if not the largest cotton mill in the
United States, and is situated at the village of Taftville,
which sprang into existence as a result of the development
of the water power of the Shetucket river. This was due
in great measure to the sagacity of Moses Pierce, who was


also largely interested in the Ashland cotton mill, and in
the Aspinook company of Jewett City, now under the man-
agement of Oliver L. Johnson. Mr. Pierce was one of the
most useful and enterprising citizens of Norwich, where he
died in 1900, at the age of ninety-two years. The Norwich
Bleaching company, of which Capt. Erastus Williams was
the first president, was established by Mr. Pierce, and was
succeeded by the United States Finishing company, which
conducts at Greeneville a business of great importance in
calendering cotton fabrics.

The Yantic Woolen Mill,

formerly a cotton mill, came into the possession of Capt.
Erastus Williams in 1824. He conducted the business
successfully during his active business life, and in 1862 was
succeeded by his son, E. Winslow Williams. The mill was
totally destroyed by fire in 1865, but by indomitable
energy and industry Mr. Williams caused a new and larger
mill of granite to be built and completed within twelve
months on the same site. After his death in 1888 his son,
Winslow Tracy Williams, became the treasurer and active
manager, and principal owner and, subsequently, the
president of the concern, which had been incorporated in
1877 as the Yantic Woolen company. During his admin-
istration the mill has been enlarged, and the village of
Yantic has been improved by the erection of Grace
(Episcopal) Church, a granite building for the Yantic Fire
Engine company and for social purposes, and a handsome
stone bridge, whose arches span the river to the driveway
which leads to Rockclyffe, the residence of Mr. Williams,
on high ground overlooking the orderly village, the
meadows, and the winding river.

The A. H. Hubbard Company,

the legitimate successor of Christopher Leffingwell and
Andrew Huntington, pioneer paper makers of Norwich, has
had a long and honorable history of nearly a hundred years


since its establishment by Russell and Amos Hallam
Hubbard, first at the Falls and later at Greeneville. Its
business is now conducted, in the third and fourth genera-
tion from its foundation, by Charles L. Hubbard as presi-
dent and his son James L. Hubbard as secretary.

Did space permit other examples might be named of
industries that were established long before 1859, and have
been continued to the present day ; but attention must now
be turned to industries that have come into existence within
the last half century.

The Norwich Nickel and Brass Company,
of which Gen. William A. Aiken is the president, and Edwin
A. Tracy, the treasurer and general manager, carries on
a large business in manufacturing by electric power an
immense variety of metal fixtures for interior display, in
a modern building of the best type of factory construction,
on Chestnut street.

Fire Arms.

Norwich has long been famous for its manufacture of
fire arms, and the Hopkins & Allen Arms company, rising
Phenix-like from its ashes after the destruction of its
property by fire in 1900, has continued its business in a
five-story building covering an entire square on Franklin
street, the president in 1909 being Arthur H. Brewer.

Crescent Fire Arms Company.

This important industry, of comparatively recent date,
is extensively engaged in manufacturing shot guns in the
Industrial building on Falls avenue, Central Wharf. The
president is Henry H. Gallup.

The J. B. Martin Company.

Among newer industries of importance is the J. B.
Martin company's large establishment for manufacturing
velvet, situated on the Lisbon road near Taftville ; and also
the M. J. Green silk mill on South Golden street, which is
now controlled by the Brainerd and Armstrong company.


The John T. Young Boiler Company,

with the assistance of members of the Board of Trade and
a gift of land on Falls avenue, has successfully begun an
enterprise that promises to be of great importance.

The Norwich Compressed Air Power Company
established near Taftville in 1902, at a large cost, a plant
of great magnitude for transmitting power through a six-
teen inch pipe to Norwich for all mechanical operations.
This plant is the first of the kind built in this country.

The Uncas Paper Company,

at its large plant at Thamesville, does a large business in
manufacturing paper board.

The Hydro Electric Plant of the Uncas Power Company,
practically a Norwich concern though beyond the town
limits, by the current sent over its transmission line, nearly
eleven miles long, from its dam on the Shetucket river
furnishes power for the Gas and Electric Light Department
of the city of Norwich.

The Chelsea File Works,

established by Henry L. Butts, manufactures hand punched
and cut files in many different forms.

The McCrum-Howell Company

has a great foundry on the west side of the Thames river
for the manufacture of stoves and heating apparatus.

These various manufacturing industries, but few out
of many that might be named, are illustrations of the fact
that the advantages afforded by the immense water power
of Norwich and its facilities for transportation are appre-
ciated by old settlers and new comers as well, who have
found it a good place to come to and a good place to stay
in. This development of manufacturing interests in the
last fifty years indicates greater progress than in any other
fifty years in the town's history.


Public Improvements.

In the course of fifty years Norwich has seen many
"justifiable domicides," but not one has caused a moment's
regret. Norwich never had at any time such fine examples
of domestic architecture, "colonial," so-called, as may still
be seen in the sea-port towns of Salem and Portsmouth,
and all of the oldest houses, like the people who dwelt in
them, having served their day and generation, have
quietly passed away. Norwich is still without any great
landed estates or very costly mansions, but her citizens
have always been justly proud of their unpretentious homes,
indicating comfort, refinement, prosperity, and domestic
happiness. The number of such dwellings has multiplied
remarkably in the last twenty years in all parts of the town
that are easily accessible by street cars, notably, on the
west side, on Laurel Hill, Lamb's Hill, and upper Washing-
ton street.

In 1882, Leffingwell Row, sometimes called "the
long shop," built by Christopher Leffingwell about one
hundred years before, and the large red store adjoin-
ing, near the fork of the roads opposite the residence of
Gen. Edward Harland, were destroyed by fire. The family
of Benjamin Huntington, living in the adjacent Leffingwell
house, caused the land below to be graded and terraced, and
thus opened a charming view, the only view of the Yantic
river that may be had from any point on the main road
between the southern part of Washington street and the
bridge below Yantic. Some years later Gen. Harland
bought the ruinous old house on the corner of Harland road
and Washington street, originally the home of Thomas
Leffingwell, and afterwards known as the Edgerton house,
and annihilated it. Improvements projected with great
enthusiasm by Henry Harland, the lamented nephew of
General Harland, left the long slope of Sentry Hill and the
ancestral family residence free from obstructions. This
improvement, and that of the Huntington property oppo-
site, have contributed more than anything else, perhaps,
for the betterment of the appearance of this section of


the town. A few rods farther north, Dr. Lathrop's drug
store, where Benedict Arnold learned his trade, has quietly
disappeared, and here it may be mentioned for the infor-
mation of coming antiquarians, that they will never find
a trace of the old buildings, nor of the house wherein
Arnold was born, for it was utterly demolished nearly
sixty years ago.

Norwich has lost three church buildings since 1859,
the Sachem street church, built in 1831 ; the Baptist church,
a frame building on Broadway where the Central building
now stands, and the Universalist church on Main street.
It has gained, among other new edifices, the Park church,
with its Osgood Memorial Parish house, erected by Mrs.
H. H. Osgood in memory of her husband ; the Trinity
Methodist church, on Main street; St. Andrew's Episcopal
zhurch, at Greeneville; Grace Church, Yantic; the First
Baptist church, on West Main street ; the Central Baptist,
on Union Square; the Taftville Congregational church;
the Swedish Lutheran, on Golden street ; the Universalist
church on Broadway, now known (in 1911) as the Church
of the Good Shepherd; the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic
church, Norwich Town; St. Joseph's (Polish) Roman
Catholic church, Cliff street; and St. Patrick's Roman
Catholic church on Broadway. This last is specially note-
worthy, not only because it is the largest and most impres-
sive church building in Norwich and ministers to the
religious wants of the largest congregation, but because in
1911 it was entirely freed from debt by the exertions of the
rector, the Rev. Hugh Treanor, and was solemnly conse-
crated by the Bishop of the diocese.

Some important landmarks have disappeared and new
buildings occupy their places ; among them the old town
hall on Church street which was destroyed by fire in 1865.
A new building for the purposes of the town of Norwich,
the city of Norwich, and the county of New London, erected
and completed at their expense in 1873, stands in a com-
manding position on Union Square, where its appearance
by no means suggests that it has already attained a greater


age than that of its predecessor. A large extension was
built in 1909 for the law library, and the enlarged town hall.

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 3 of 19)